Monday, 14 June 2010

Three days at the Thalassa spa in Le Touquet and I’m a new woman. We ran away from the builders and the rot and the plaster dust and booked into the Novotel. It sits right on the beach, has a huge pool. The Spa is run by severe, white coated women who administer a variety of treatments with aplomb.

They also speak no English so booking can sometimes lead to a surprise.I chose things that roughly translated and avoided at all costs anything that had the word “ re-education” attached!

The food at the hotel was excellent but we were tempted into the town where , on this visit, we discovered several lovely places to eat. On our final night we went to Le Paris and I ate a sole Meuniere bigger than my plate. I’m reading My Life in France by Julia Child and she speaks so glowingly of that dish I longed for it

The Thursday market was filled with wonderful produce and the sequels of Kentish school children learning how to shop in their beginners French.

Cherries and tomatoes featured along with early stone fruit. The heritage tomatoes from Provence caught my eye and when home I made a simple salad dresses with some of my Sicilian oil and some coarse sea salt. Delicious

Friday, 21 May 2010

I know it's been far too long......

And there are no really good excuses just a few reasons.. My home, at the moment , is a building site. I have decamped to the basement while our lovely Polish builders rip the top three floors apart replacing wiring, plumbing and plaster. I am hoping we are at the rebuilding stage now and once all this is a distant memory I’ll begin feeling human and start planning my classes.

The ongoing delight is just how much I love being back in London, so all the inconvenience is gilded by my sheer joy at living in this, soon to be lovely, house.

So I sleep on a futon in my newly remade kitchen/dining room and plan paint colours and wallpaper.

And I cook... There is something about living so close to so many markets and food shops that just makes ideas spring into your mind. I’ve been feasting on Suffolk asparagus cooked for the barest moments and then sauced with everything from melted butter and lemon juice to soft poached eggs.

But today I’m cooking for an alfresco lunch which I’m hoping will happen in my birdsong filled garden. I thought I’d miss my tame blackbird when I moved but lo and behold, I have an even tamer one here in central London.

The menu will be Jellied Ham some seared chicken breast and this dish of bake squash with feta and pumpkin seeds.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Black Pasta

Black pasta is my new passion. When I say new I really mean that I've liked it for a long time but had forgotten about it. Teaching last week at Cucina Caldesi I made some pasta with a fresh prawn and cherry tomato sauce and it was excellent. I just had not remembered how silky the pasta is and how toothsome. To make the sauce you sweat onions and garlic in plenty of olive oil then add halved cherry tomatoes. Simmer till everything is quite reduced and then add a large glass of white wine. Simmer again crumbling in some dried chilli and adding salt and pepper.
The raw prawns are added immediately before you drain the pasta so they only just cook through.
But the true glory of this dish is the pasta.
Pasta Nero
300gm pasta flour
2 large free range eggs
2 tablespoons nero de sepia ( cuttlefish ink)
Blitz the ingredients in a food processor until the dough is formed then let it rest under an up-turned bowl for about 15 minutes. It must be very dry, if not add more flour at this stage.
Cut into quarters and roll out. On my machine I go to number 6 but yours might be different. Leave the sheets of dough to dry for about 10 minutes then cut them using the fine cutter on the machine.
When you're ready to eat put the heat under the sauce, bring a huge pan of water to the boil, add a handful of salt and throw in the pasta. When the water returns to the boil, stir once using the handle of a wooden spoon.
Tip the prawns into your sauce and drain the pasta- it should cook for no more than 2-3 minutes.
Toss the sauce and pasta together and eat.
This recipe might serve 2-3 people if one of them is not as greedy as me.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Not another trip!!

Cape Town this time and very good it was too. We left on the last plane out before the snow. Not entirely without incident as we stood on the runway for 2 hours having been de-iced twice . But that was all soon forgotten as we landed in 34 degree temperatures.
The sun remained shining throughout our stay and we were able to have a wonderfully relaxed time, helped no doubt by knowing just how much misery we were missing.
The food was much better this time I thought. I've often been quite critical of food in South Africa feeling it lack real craft and never quite understanding the concept of african time which translates to very long waits for even the simplest of dishes.
This year all was changed. We enjoyed an unprecedented level of food, and wine and the service could only have been described and both professional and joyful.
One wonderful lunch was at The Hidden Valley winery just north of Stellenbosch. We sat in dappled sunlight and ate delicious food , with views almost too beautiful to look at and were almost oblivious to the 46 degree temperature.
A truly special place. Other delicious meals were eaten at Fishermans in Kommetjie where we ate crayfish minutes out of the sea and, of course, the splendid Chapman's Peak hotel.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Happy New Year!!

Well it's been a hectic time here with 12 for lunch on Christmas day and many more meals eaten during this very long holiday.
Here in London the Christmas/New Year break is nearly two weeks of eating and ,more exhausting, of food shopping! There are so many places you need to visit to buy the ingredients for the perfect meal:the organic bakery, the fresh fish shop, the farmer's market the supermarket and the cheese shop. The miles I must have walked and the bags I carried. But everything was safely gathered in eventually and once the turkey was delivered we could all relax understanding at last that we would not go hungry once the shops closed.
Though quite why one needs so many foods you never eat except at Christmas, I'm not sure.
I have tins of shortbread, German biscuits, mountains of chocolates and pints of cream. All balanced I hope by a couple of kilos of sprouts.

My new kitchen stood well to this test. It was me rather than the kit that was rusty, looking up recipes for the simplest of things.
It all augers well for a happy and fulfilling year of cooking and trying new ideas.